After the Fall by Dan Santat, 2017
(Ages 5 – 10)
Wow! What an inspirational and beautifully illustrated story. We all know that Humpty Dumpty takes a bit of a tumble in the nursery rhyme, but what you may not know is that once the King’s men finally put him back together, he develops a horrible fear of heights. Sadly, this stops him from pursuing his passion of bird watching. Through stunning illustrations, Santat tells the story of how Humpty Dumpty conquers his fear and learns to soar (literally).
There are plenty of great lessons in this book including perseverance, overcoming adversity, and trying new things, but it never feels overly didactic. It has more of a whimsical feel with underlying humor that adults and some older children will pick up on. For example, one two-page spread features the cereal aisle at the grocery store. Unfortunately, Humpty Dumpty’s new fear of heights limits him to the cereals located on the bottom shelves that consist of colorless boxes of cereals with names like “Sad Clown”, “Grown-Up Food”, “Fiber Flakes”, and “Bo-Rings.”
The most impressive part of this book, however, are the last few pages. It is clear that Santat put a lot of thought into each page as Humpty Dumpty returned to that treacherous wall and climbed again. The ending took my five-year-old son and me completely by surprise and I was blown away. It turns out Humpty Dumpty is not just a hard-boiled egg, he is an egg waiting to hatch. In the last striking scene of Humpty on top of the wall, we see him burst out of his shell and sprout wings with the text, “Maybe now you won’t think of me as that egg who was famous for falling. Hopefully, you’ll remember me as the egg who got back up…and learned to fly.” AMAZING! This book could be perfect as a graduation gift, teaching growth mindset, sharing with a group or with an individual child. One thing is clear though, it is a book that belongs on everyone’s bookshelf!
I will not be surprised if Dan Santat receives another Caldecott nod for this spectacular book. Check out Dan Santat’s other incredible work including Caldecott winning The Adventures of Beekle!